Learning Expedition: 2 days traveling the roads of the Mayab with Parisian students

On Friday, March 15, a group of students from France and from different parts of the world from the CIFFOP (Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas) studying the Masters in (International) Human Resources Management embarked on flight AF650 to Cancun, excited and not really knowing what to expect from their Learning Expedition in Mexico.

Co’ox Mayab, in partnership with Viajes UADY Global and the UADY’s Coordination for Cooperation and Internationalization organized part of this school trip on March 17 and 18, during which the Parisian students swam in the Cenote Yokdzonot, discovered the community life of Ek Balam and appreciated nature in San Felipe.

Thus, on Sunday, March 17, with our bathing suits on and luggage ready for 2 days, we left the hostel Nómadas for Yokdzonot, where the cenote is operated by the cooperative Zaaz Koolen Haá, made up mostly of women from the community. Here, the students were given an informative presentation about the cenotes, the problems they face and how the cooperative operates. DAfterwards, the students were able to swim and cool off from the Yucatecan heat, which was more than a 20°C difference from Paris. At the end of the visit, we had lunch at the cooperative’s restaurant, where we enjoyed the best traditional Yucatecan dishes. Hector and Doña Tere, president and secretary of the cooperative, respectively, thanked everyone for their visit and received great applause from the group for their effort and dedication.

After lunch, we left for the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, where we toured its impressive constructions of Mayan-Toltecan architecture under the burning Yucatecan sun. The Kukulkan Castle served as a backdrop for several group postcards that are now beautiful memories.

Exhausted by the heat and the jetlag from a few days, we left for the community of Ek Balam where students would spend a night in the cabins of the cooperative U Najil. DFrom the moment we arrived in the community there was a cultural shock, but there was also an astonishment that caused joy. After settling in the cabins and refreshing themselves, the students were able to enjoy a dinner at the local families’ homes where they tasted the panuchos, pollo pibil and tamales. The visit served as a stage for intercultural dialogue between visitors and locals, both sharing their culture. With a full stomach and a happy heart, we said goodbye to the families and headed to the community center, where the U Najil Ek Balam cooperative organized an event with folkloric dances and a representation of the ball game for both visitors and villagers.

The next day, some visited the Mayan milpa and learned about melipona bees, tree types and crops with Manuel and Luis, two young guides from the community. After breakfast, others made the community tour, in which they discovered the technique of cross stitch sewing, hammock embroidery and how to make tortillas by hand. The students, curious, asked all sorts of questions about the best way to sleep in a hammock, as some of them did it the night before and thought it was a rather… interesting experience. At the end of the visits, the community center was the meeting point, where Don Mario said a few words of farewell and afterwards we left for San Felipe.

There was no better welcome to San Felipe than eating at the Vaselina restaurant, where we were able to enjoy fish and seafood traditional of the Yucatan’s coast. After the delicious meal we boarded the boats of the San Felipe y Naturaleza cooperative to make a quick tour of the mangrove area and arrive at Punta Nichili Island, where the students could spend such a longed-for time on the beach. From the beginning of the tour the clouds threatened to make it rain, and it was just when we began to return that raindrops began to fall. Some running, and others in a slower manner embarked on boats to return to the port and back to Merida. After 3 hours of travel and a message thanking them for choosing a fairer, more conscious and supportive way of traveling, we said goodbye to the students and wished them bonne continuation.

Other events that took place during their stay were the Franco-Mexican Colloquium “University and Enterprise in France and Mexico: Compared Approaches and Applicable Synergies and visits to different local and regional enterprises. The students valued the diversity and vitality of the local economic sector as well as learn about the Mexican way of human resource management.

On Friday 22, one day before their return to Paris, a closing and feedback activity was organised at the former Faculty of Anthropology. Below, we present some messages that the students wrote about the trip:

“Incredible experience, we learned and visited places and had experiences we would never have had. The best trip of my life. THANK YOU”.

“Incredible experience in the village, in the communities, in the cooperatives. Incredible landscapes and good human experiences”.

“It allowed us to question and understand the essence of the exchanges and to forget the material things”.

“A totally unique and privileged experience. Feeling of integrating a community with particular and sincere customs. Total acculturation and out of the routine”.

“A big applause for your organization. You made us discover the Yucatan region in detail. I will never forget this constructive journey”.

“Incredible experience! Everything was well organized, the people were very welcoming. We were able to discover and live the Mayan culture”.

Co’ox Mayab appreciates the trust that CIFFOP and UADY put in us to organize this trip and thanks all involved for making it possible. We hope that this trip has helped you to grow professionally, but above all, personally. Congratulations et à bientôt!

Written by: Jan Martín Müller.

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